If you heard that a proposed bill got 58 votes in support and 41 votes against, you'd think that would be a good thing, right? Not in the United States Senate, where the Paycheck Fairness Act died when a vote to move the bill forward failed by just that count -- 58 to 41, two votes short of the 60 votes required. It is the very same bill that passed in the House with bipartisan support in January 2009. Today, only Democratic senators voted to support Paycheck Fairness for women -- not a single Republican voted to allow the Senate to move forward. It is notable that the first vote after the election in which the American people sent a clear message that they want Washington to work better, the Republicans blocked a common sense measure aimed simply to help ensure that women get the pay they deserve.
This afternoon, I participated in an inspiring meeting with leading advocates for women and girls who have been working tirelessly for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This meeting included women who have dedicated their careers to the fight for equal rights for women, including Lilly Ledbetter, who became a relentless advocate for equal pay after fighting her own battle against discrimination. I was joined by senior women in the Administration including Melody Barnes, the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Tina Tchen, Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss today’s Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Administration’s ongoing efforts to promote equality and economic security for American women and their families.
Shortly after the start of the conversation, President Obama joined the meeting and offered thanks to Lilly and the advocates for their incredible hard work and dedication. He expressed his disappointment and frustration, but noted the Administration’s past support of the bill and our commitment to closing the wage gap. Watch a video from the meeting:
Despite today’s vote, the Administration will continue its fight for equal pay for women – an issue that in these trying economic times is even more pressing given American families’ reliance on women’s income. The National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, with representatives from the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Office of Personnel Management, (“OPM”) continues its pursuit of pay equity for women. The agencies are strengthening their own enforcement efforts and working together, building regional partnerships to promote earlier and more effective collaboration on investigations. And with leadership from OPM, we will continue to improve the federal government’s role as a model employer.
This Administration will keep fighting to improve the economic security for women and their families. This includes working hard in this session and the next Congress we will keep fighting for things such as an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other measures we have supported that must now be extended. The President is committed to working with the women who joined us today and people around the country to support women and their families.
Valerie Jarett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls